Don’t doubt yourself. If something doesn’t make sense to you, it probably doesn’t make sense at all. For instance, a client presented me with an insanely complex special effects job years ago, with a storyboard that looked like The Matrix. The requests and the animation flow just didn’t make sense, but I started panicking, immediately jumping to ‘I don’t know what they mean, I’m going to fail’, etc. However, when I met with them to go over the boards, it turned out that they DIDN’T know what they were talking about. They’d stuck all these ideas together and had no idea what was involved and why it wouldn’t work. We reworked the concept and it all turned out really well.
The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Pamela Jaber.
Pamela Jaber is Chief Ideation Officer at Friends With Holograms, a VR/AR agency specializing in impactful and emotional VR and AR experiences. She understands the importance of the ‘reality’ in Virtual Reality, emphasizing experiences that create real learning through evocative, realistic situations.
She has led and collaborated with teams of VR creators — cutting edge Unity and Unreal developers, creative technologists and writers to create award-winning Virtual Reality experiences, and she is also a TV director who has created several highly acclaimed ad campaigns.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?
I grew up in a very small town in upstate New York. My parents were both professors who ended up in that area after meeting at Syracuse University. After college I moved to New York City, my dream, to work in the music business, managing bands. After about a year, I met and apprenticed with a graphic designer and started freelancing, and through a series of lucky events I got into video and television production, eventually to become a TV commercial director. Finally, I got involved in X Reality.
Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Well, I love to read so it would be hard to narrow it down to just one. Maybe the children’s book ‘The Secret Garden’. Because it tells you that you can control your narrative, IF you believe.
Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in the X Reality industry? We’d love to hear it.
It’s kind of a combination. I worked with someone who was really interested in VR/AR at a time when I was more concentrated on traditional directing. Actually, at first I thought the idea of virtual and augmented reality a bit weird, but got really interested as I learned more. He introduced me to people working in the XR space and as I worked on various projects I got more excited and inspired about the possibilities. That’s when I met Cortney and began working with her, just as Friends With Holograms got our first big job Accenture.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?
Crazily, I was going to say NO to the opportunity to work on that first Friends with Holograms job. The person she was working with had left the company unexpectedly right before we got the job. I was terrified that I would fail miserably. But, I recognized the opportunity was huge and that I had to stop being scared and just do it. It turns out I knew more than I thought I did and we crushed it.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was so stressed out about that first job that I slipped while jogging, fell on my HEAD and gave myself a black eye. Funny, but not. We had an insanely short turnaround time, some difficult situations cropped up, and a lot of anxiety. But in the end, we won a GLOMO award and the work was nominated at SxSW for an Innovation Award.So, in the end, it all worked out just fine and I recovered too!
I learned that clients aren’t usually aware of what’s involved in a project, but if you educate them they are often willing to be flexible, which makes the whole project flow more smoothly.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are several people I’m seriously grateful for. First, the very talented graphic designer who, for no apparent reason, originally apprenticed me and introduced me to my first clients. Second, the super techie I met while working with a music video production house. She decided to train me up on a lot of advanced software so we could work together; first the Avid (video editing) and then the Flame (special effects) and I worked in both fields. Third, the colleague who got me involved in XR. And finally, most importantly, Cortney Harding, who has given me the opportunity to be part of something hugely exciting — the development of a groundbreaking VR/AR agency. It’s been fascinating.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes I am! We are starting a project for a major retailer to build a training model that focuses on how to recognize and avoid unconscious bias in the workplace, which will move a lot of conversations forward . Another we are developing in-house is based on a concept that deals with communication and beliefs; encouraging the user to really listen to several people of different backgrounds, hear what they are dealing with in their lives, and realize that we all have very similar hopes and dreams, no matter how disparate we seem. This topic came through my own experience and my hope is that these projects will open peoples’ minds up and foster better understanding.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The VR, AR and MR industries seem so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? Can you explain or give an example?
Three things that excite me: One, headsets are becoming better and cheaper. Two, mixed reality headsets are getting more sophisticated and capable of so much, they are really going to change things in a big way. Third, motion tracking and hand tracking capabilities are also getting better and better, which will make XR experiences even more intuitive and realistic.
What are the 3 things that concern you about the VR, AR and MR industries? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?
While they are becoming cheaper, I wish more people had easy access to headsets so that the barrier to entry would become less and the benefits would be more widespread. Another concern is that people don’t understand the technology and are hesitant to use it for training, even with the proven effectiveness. If more people had headsets available, that would make it more familiar — the way everyone has a cell phone. Third, that the industry is so male-dominated. XR is poised to be a major source of information and training for everyone, and it’s always better if no one group controls the narrative. That could be addressed by encouraging and supporting women trying to get into the industry.
I think the entertainment aspects of VR, AR and MR are apparent. Can you share with our readers how these industries can help us at work?
Well, there’s the indisputable fact that training and teaching in VR/AR is proven over and over to be far superior to other traditional forms, which means a huge opportunity to help so many people acquire skills and understanding in so many areas. One experience we created caused employee turnover to reduce by 31% and reduction in training costs by 75%. That’s impressive.
Are there other ways that VR, AR and MR can improve our lives? Can you explain?
I think the fact that people can learn, train, and experience things on their own time and in their own homes is an incredible opportunity. It allows people to see and do things they might never have access to, and to feel more comfortable in new situations, whether at their jobs or interacting with others.That is really empowering.
Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in broader terms. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? If not, what specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
Hahaha, no. I am not satisfied at all! I feel that women are not respected in STEM, which leads to less women thinking they should attempt a career in STEM, which of course leads to a lack of gender diversity. I can’t tell you how many times people ignore or question something I say to them, but immediately believe and start quoting something a man tells them about the same subject. Even when he’s wrong. It can be discouraging, especially to women starting out. I think women should be encouraged to go into STEM and careful attention should be paid in schools to make sure that the women are supported in their studies. I don’t mean they should be coddled; I mean they should be respected and heard.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about working in your industry? Can you explain what you mean?
Well, it’s not all high-speed, ‘bleeding-edge’ excitement. There’s a lot of day to day mundane activity, like any job.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in Tech” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Don’t doubt yourself. If something doesn’t make sense to you, it probably doesn’t make sense at all. For instance, a client presented me with an insanely complex special effects job years ago, with a storyboard that looked like The Matrix. The requests and the animation flow just didn’t make sense, but I started panicking, immediately jumping to ‘I don’t know what they mean, I’m going to fail’, etc. However, when I met with them to go over the boards, it turned out that they DIDN’T know what they were talking about. They’d stuck all these ideas together and had no idea what was involved and why it wouldn’t work. We reworked the concept and it all turned out really well.
- Listen to others. Sometimes someone who doesn’t seem qualified will have good ideas. Once I was discussing a concept I was working on, and someone completely unrelated to the project OR the industry suggested something that gave me a whole new perspective.
- Be open to new experiences and put yourself in places where things you’re interested in are happening. Every step of my career has been caused in some part by a lucky opportunity, and only came about because I was in the right place at the right time. But the reason I was there was because I was interning or just trying to learn something new on my own time.
- Think before you speak. There’s a great tendency to throw out ideas without thinking about the details, and suddenly you find yourself in a tight spot. I agreed to do a video for a client without thinking about the fact that we didn’t have the assets needed, the time frame was incredibly short, and we didn’t have the resources. We found a way, but it was unnecessary stress.
- Try not to worry too much. The examples of this are pretty much every project I work on. I worry, I stress, and in the end everything comes together. I really need to bypass the worry part!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Stop looking at your phone every single second of every single day. Life truly is short, and you’re missing it if all you’re doing is recording it. Creative ideas come from experiences you have, and if you aren’t really immersed in life, you’re not going to be very imaginative.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Al Gore. I’d like to know if he really invented the internet. No, seriously, I’d love to meet him. I think he’s done a lot of amazing work on environmental issues, and I’d like to learn more.
Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!